UMass invites disrespect
AMHERST — Chaz Williams seemed like he didn’t know what to do with himself. The University of Massachusetts had been given a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament. It was higher than even the players or coaches expected to get. The Minutemen were so used to thriving or feeling underrated and disrespected that a big vote of confidence from the selection committee felt weird.
By Monday afternoon, the chip on the Minutemen’s shoulder was back. Experts on TV, strangers on Twitter and even computers all predicted that the Minutemen would lose without even knowing who they were playing. Tennessee and Iowa will play Wednesday night for the right to be UMass’ No. 11-seeded opponent.
Disrespected again, Williams was back in his comfort zone.
“We love it. A lot of people don’t expect us to be here,” Williams said laughing. “Thank you to everybody who said that. It’s just fueling our fire.”
UMass coach Derek Kellogg wasn’t reading too much into being the trendy upset victim.
“About 50 percent of the time (the predictions) work out. Hopefully we can be a team that’s untrendy,” Kellogg said.
Double preparation — It never occurred to Kellogg that he might have to prepare for two different opponents. But getting a No. 6 seed opened the door to playing against the winner of a play-in game.
“That kind of shocked me. I thought we were going to be around a No. 7,” Kellogg said. “But when I saw all these teams getting in that we played and beat, anything was possible. I was just happy our name was called.”
Unable to install a game plan, Kellogg said the Minutemen are focusing on themselves.
“Our halfcourt defense could use a little improving. Our press could get better,” Kellogg said. “We have to keep an eye on our shot selection. We’ve rushed it a little bit.”
Kellogg has spoken to members of the Kentucky staff, which he’s close to, about Tennessee, but didn’t get a full scouting report.
Dyson will be ready — Kellogg has begun playing freshman guard Demetrius Dyson a few minutes a game, a trend that could continue in the postseason.
Dyson promised that he’ll be ready.
“It’s a great experience for us. I’ll be ready whenever my number is called. I’m just praying that things go the right way when I get into the game,” Dyson said. “Even though this is an NCAA Tournmament game, I’m thinking of it like a regular game. Like the last game, I just tried to get in and do whatever I could.”
Mostly indifferent — Although Kellogg and most of the UMass players expressed indifference to which opponent they’d play Friday, senior forward Raphiael Putney admitted he had a preference.
“I actually want to play Tennessee because last year they beat us in the Puerto Rican Tournament,” he said. “They really got the best of us. We were a young team, not really mature. This year is a totally different team.”